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Alter Ego

In the final month of the year of the Water Rabbit, I would like to introduce Liffy Saint Stiffbottom.

Liffy is a strict, 19th-century English boarding school mistress who wears a high-collared long-sleeved dress up to the neck, hair in a bun so tight as if attempting to undo forehead lines, lips perpetually puckered like one who drinks vinegar, and big circle glasses through which her eyes laser focus on rules and your adherence.

Liffy may seem like someone who likes authority and power. More than that, she likes systems, structure, and streamlined processes whenever possible in service to what she perceives as collective efficiency, effectiveness, and personal and public safety. She likes things to function so that we can count on getting what we want when we want. She always wears her seatbelt and she wants you to wear yours.

Liffy would be excellent on your team as a safety officer, lab manager, or chemical inventory specialist to sort out your chemicals and store them in groups and make signs and labels, and to admonish others to return them to their proper homes after using them to minimize inadvertent mixing that leads to spontaneous corrosion and/or explosion.

You want this person around when you need help documenting everything – procedures, protocols, quarantine accounts, etc. - and archiving them in a librarian-esque system.

You like this person for knowing the fire escape route and willingness to marshall people through it in a fire drill, and hopefully, in an actual fire.

She can help you organize your clothes a la Marie Kondo.

What happens if any of the rules, processes, structures, and lanes that make sense to her get trespassed, neglected, ignored, trampled on, thrown out, overrided, violated, or worse... disrespected?

Well-adjusted Liffy, socially and emotionally intelligent, will become curious and inquisitive about what happened. Did they miss the message? Did they not understand the message? Did they get the message and then forget about it? Might it have been an honest mistake? Did they disagree for a good reason?

A well-adjusted Liffy will ask herself if she even needs to follow up with what happened or can she let it go? If yes to follow-up, she'll investigate, learn, empathize, and communicate. She can assert perspectives and boundaries while listening.

She will not take personally the overstep, misstep, or mistake. She may even discover the blessings in the way things are different than what she expected and/or the opportunity for stronger relationships through communication and learning.

When Liffy is not feeling socially or emotionally intelligent, imagine the same caricature strict school mistress trapped in the body of an unsocialized child aged 4-8, capable of forming complete sentences with vastly varying intensities of emotional control, if any.

She takes it personally, judging the actions of the trespasser as the judgment of the rules or of her, possibly judging the trespasser's character, anywhere from ignorant, clueless, or aloof, to inconsiderate, selfish, stuck-up, self-centered, self-absorbed, or arrogant, to just plain dumb.

This Liffy struggles to examine and adjust her own thinking. She can hold a grudge too big and for too long over incidences rather small and rather short-lived.

She forgets that, when she points a finger at someone, three fingers point back at her. She needs a time-out and alternate perspectives.

Where is this story of Liffy Saint Stiffbottom going?

Last year in Conscious Dance, we organized a series called the Galactic Journey, where each week we visited a planet or luminary (sun or moon) in our solar system. I signed up to co-facilitate was Saturn - not because I love Saturn, but because that date matched my availability.

Weeks before we danced Saturn, someone told me that my personality is very Saturnian.

In what ways? I asked, surprised.

Saturn is the Roman counterpart to Kronos, the Greek god of time. Saturn governs generation, abundance, wealth, structure, moral obligations, authority, and manifestation; the Saturn in us can bring into existence what we want to exist through responsibility, discipline, maturity, and establishing long-lasting foundations.

Side note: according to mythology, Saturn castrated his own father, Uranus, in revenge for Uranus's hatred and imprisonment of his own children. (The entrails, tossed onto the sea, became Venus.) Thus, Saturn was cursed to be defeated by his own child. To avoid this fate, he ate his children... until his son Jupiter, secretly hidden by his mother, returned to overthrow Saturn and forced him to vomit up the other children he ate - Neptune, Pluto, Ceres, Juno, and Vesta.

Saturn is celebrated, cursed, and celebrated during the Italian festival, Saturnalia.

Like all archetypes we can embody, Saturn has a golden side and a shadow side.

Liffy Saint Stiffbottom is my über-Saturnian alter ego. (You may have noticed our initials.)

She is the caricature of my golden and shadow Saturnian characteristics.

She comes alive frequently –when someone starts something earlier than agreed and she feels uncomfortable, when someone doesn’t want to complete their payment on time with everybody else, when someone did the laundry and didn’t fold it for two days, when she wants to update infrastructure for her business, when she is annoyed with herself for not doing it sooner.

Whilst Liffy often serves me very well, when she becomes that begrudging 4-to-8-year-old unadjusted child, I have to give her a time-out. If she’s not being helpful, I need her to calm her inner complaining, take back responsibility for her own experience, and integrate with the rest of me towards something more creative, collaborative, and peaceful.

If you’ve interacted with me before, you have certainly interacted with Liffy.

Over to you:

What are some characteristics that make you, you?

What would they look like in an exaggerated alter ego? (You can have more than one.)

Does your alter ego have a name?

What are the golden sides of those characteristics?

What are the shadow sides?

Take your time to think of different situations where these characteristics came alive.

Lastly, what kind(s) of relationship would you like to have with [INSERT NAME(S) of your alter ego(s)]?

Ready to share? Send a note through my contact form.

If you don't mind a public forum, you can interact with this post on LinkedIn or Substack, where it was originally published in Clear Water RoundUp #094, the newsletter of Clear Water Science Consulting Limited.